Athena – the Goddess of Wisdom, War and Craftsmen in Greek Mythology

Athena, goddess of wisdom, war and crafts in Greek mythology, brought to life again…in a manner of speaking.

Why ‘real’ – or ‘true to life’, when talking about ‘mythology’? Which in the tradition of almost all peoples around the globe is a ‘myth’ to begin with, something like a ‘highbrow fairy story’?

Of Greek mythology it can be said particularly well that it was built, based on what was common in the society at the time:
life, love and war or parents and children, brothers and sisters. Kings, queens, gods and peasants, they figured in it, fought, won, lost, loved and hated just as human beings did – and do.

As a child I encountered the German retold stories of Greek mythology ‘en vogue’ then. I didn’t like the style. It seemed cramped and rather bent on trying to provide a sense of blind worship for the old traditions. Typical among those that seem to hold anything of ancient Greece in highest regard without checking twice – or real understanding and a broader view.

Still, recently I came across a documentary about the Greek myths that not only was colourful, consists of more than 20 parts – but also seems true to ‘life’.

The second time after reading Joachim Fernau, historian, of hotly debated, enlightened approach, who yet successfully made ancient history come to life in his books on Roman or Greek mythology and history.
Colourful, too, great fun to read, with real insight.

Athena, the Modern Woman?

Athena is particular to me because she seems to represent a figure as a woman I feel I can relate too:
not perfect, but well-liked, desired even, yet not easily taken in – or had. She fights only in order to make more peace.
She sprang from the head of her father Zeus, reigning god of Greek mythology,  at birth, also a striking way to come to life: a father’s thought or idea…

She failed once dreadfully when killing her sister in a sparring fight, where her father Zeus interfered at the last minute, blinded her sister momentarily to weaken her and thus makes Athena kill her sister accidentally.
A little background here makes it clearer:
‘Pallas’ had been her uncle Poseidon’s daughter in the tales, but both had been raised and felt like sisters. That Zeus would interfere at all, in the tales was due to an old rivalry between his brother Poseidon and himself.

That’s apparently why she is called ‘Pallas Athena’ on most statues or scrolls or in texts: she put the name of her beloved sister in front of her own to remind and be reminded for the rest of her life.

She is protective goddess of all crafts, close to arts and although I am not a craftswoman as such, I like many crafts very well, such as knitting, crocheting, or cooking.

Wisdom, last but not at all least of the main characteristics and responsibilities of her as a figure in the tales:
wisdom is dear to me and I try to attain more, as the years pass  by, always have held in it in high regard.

Wisdom and knowledge are not the same thing by a long chalk. But experience and a kind heart, as well as knowledge are the best possible bases for wisdom to come – sometimes sooner, sometimes later.

Non-violently ‘fight’ for peace, be wise, do not let them fool you and look your fellow-man – literally and figuratively – squarely in the eye, yet remember also about love or passion, quality-wise, instead of quantity: that’s what this image means to me in a nutshell. Athena.

Stereotypes – Images – Mistaken Judgement

In literature and philosophy one of the things you learn at an early stage is, to look beyond the obvious.
Or that which is apparently obvious.
The great works of art, especially in poetry, often have layers of meaning to them. And not just one or two layers. But several, in many cases.

In life, this kind of knowledge can be crucial: that the surface, the apparently obvious, the first impression, the things you hear and see with the ‘naked eye or ear’ can be completely misleading.
This fact is made use of in marketing: use images and ideas that are easy to grasp, are part of common knowledge and that way, sell – chocolate, cars, or clothes.

That’s why advertisements are often full of stereotypes, such as the wonderful housewife and mother. The cool and always superior father, the cute kids, who never complain, except when chocolate is becoming scarce… and so on, and on…

Why is this misleading, though? Aren’t there cute kids around? Aren’t there wonderful housewives and mothers? Or the superior father – not to say passionate lovers?
Of course there are!
But they are not always the only thing to know about or the most important aspect of a person.

Stereotypes exist everywhere and are almost countless.

A particularly impressive because very colourful one, connected with heaps of imagery and at the same time so easily dismantled is that of the passion of Spanish natives as opposed to that of the average European, supposed to be far more sedate in outlook:
bluntly put, unfortunately, that’s just complete bullshit.

Why, again?
What the emblematic image conjures up in the mind is the Flamenco dancer, clapping, stomping, scowling, accompanied by apparently fierce musicians strumming the guitar and the sad, sometimes fierce songs of, among other sources, the gypsies in Spain. They had been chased and abused for centuries and Flamenco, so the legend has it, expresses their fight for life.

The Flamenco as well as other dances considered to be passionate, such as the Tango or the Rumba, has seen for decades now a new appreciation and recognition in countries such as Switzerland or Germany.
Where people are considered to be less passionate, than in other regions of the world.
How is it possible then that among the famous and even in Spain recognized Flamenco dancers, there is a Swiss woman?

Because people take preconceptions and stereotypes for granted. They do not look beyond the image, the impressions, eye and ear seem to convey apparently.

But the truth is: we only understand and recognize what we know.
If our knowledge is marked by stereotypes, stereotypes is what we will see and find.

And that is a great pity!
The above example about apparently passionate as opposed to less passionate human beings is a striking one to make the point:
if we believe in it, the really passionate nature in ourselves, wherever we’ve been raised – and other more subtle aspects of people around us, may completely escape us!

So, go beyond stereotypes! Find the truth, not just the image!

 

Love – Life – Marriage – Passion

Love is not an adventure – but a journey.
Passion is not a function – but a person.
Marriage is not a commitment as in: prison – it’s a decision.
Romance is not a fleeting idea from fairy stories – but heart and mind of a person.
Life is not a sandbox and games – but responsible behaviour – and a ‘Yes’.

One of Those Questions – Love in Triples?

It seems that in long-term relationships for all kinds of reasons people can forget about passion and how it might work…
Sometimes it’s not so much the ‘forgetfulness’, but reasons outside of their strictly personal ideas have made them come together, especially: marry.

For thousands of years mankind has been wondering and does every day, if passion must not fade, naturally, after some time.
I am not sure if I am the right person to answer this definitively, but in my opinion: ‘no’.
I am a romantic and I believe that with patience and knowledge and the right setting more things are possible, than “are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio”, as Shakespeare has Hamlet say in the famous play.

A lot of people seem to feel that the solution lies in the triple: have the long-term partner to share life with – and the second ‘love’ to share passion with. Little vignettes may swim to imagination’s surface, painting the life that way in rosy, passionate and separate colours…
Interestingly, almost no one takes the time to think this through… Man (and woman) is not a machine, a function, but always a unique being, a whole of mind, soul and body.

So, shortly put: triples do not work in love.

Be that as it may, this little clip from one of my favourite movies gives a nice answer to that question, that is not definitive, on the surface – but makes you wonder in a good way…

Passion, Love and the Lush Side of Life

There’s a lot of literature and acquired knowledge among all of mankind about love and its multiple manifestations. Art and crafts as well as the theatre and also the movie business, newspapers, marketing, sales, you name it, they all depend on it. How? Well, one of its aspects is sex, as we call it in modern times. And sex sells. Also, and again: Why?

What is so powerful that everyone is always talking about it with relish, craving it – and more often than not – not ‘gett’n any’, as the streets (the popular slang) have it.

Someone on a TV-show called it by a simple formula: ‘sex is life-affirming’. There’s a lot of truth in that. Many people, especially in modern times and men even more often than women suffer from what Erich Kästner had called ‘lack of emotion’. Business is everywhere – and in business any passionate emotion can be bad for it, because a buyer might conclude there’s not enough confidence in the product, so perhaps better not buy.

So since passion is reduced to rare occasions in life, so since we all grow up, especially in Western civilisation, that being calm, cool and unaffected is the state of mind to go for,  passion ‘goes out the door’.

Of course, there’s the tradition also, that stems from times when being an ‘unwed mother’ was damning to a woman’s reputation, condemning her to a life in poverty, even on the streets. When  religion was known to affirm that bodily love, which I find a much better term for it, was a sin. Freud freed us of that. In the West. Since the 19th century, with the advent of emancipation of women and finally the arrival of the birth control pill it seems today we should be at a point where it’s clear, easy and as natural as it should be. Or not?

Still people wonder, what it is that can make it so hurtful (as the song has it, ‘love hurts’). Especially since the modern ‘freedom’ of ‘sex of when, where and as you like it’ has created a heated atmosphere that seems to blur the essentials.

There are two of them at least: there’s lust and there’s love. And yet – to try and completely separate them from each other is practically impossible. Alexander Lowen created a whole science around the comparatively new Western realization that body and mind are indeed no two separate entities, but rather closely related, intertwined as it were. Which is to say that what happens in our brains, the mind, is crucial for love or lust. That whatever happens in our for our bodies, is reflected in or even caused by stimulation of some region of the brain. That even the most simple words can create a whole volley of bodily reactions, remembering an experience, a taste, a fragrance, recalling images – and suddenly the pulse starts to race. What happens in love, even if it is the bodily love that is not based on deeper emotions, the ‘being in love’? The heart beats faster, cheeks flush, the temperature rises, the blood rushes through the veins, we may become almost breathless – and desire, if we are lucky, can be overwhelming. But it is to this day underestimated, especially among and for men, how deeply it can touch us, and soon. If we live as if there was no emotion, no ‘heart’ (and I mean not the organ here, in the strict sense), an emptiness, even aversion of human beings, life in general can follow. And many of those who set out to ‘break all women’s hearts at a glance’ wake up one day to find that something went missing on the way. The most wonderful literature has been created around this, refer to Tolstoi’s ‘Resurrection’ (with a religious motif at the centre), Pushkin’s ‘Eugen Onegin’, a lot of Shakespeare’s tragedies as well as his comedies, of course, W. Somerset Maugham’s ‘Of Human Bondage’, to name only a few distinct and special instances. And movies, of course: there’s no end to the stories, a ‘love interest’ is known in Hollywood to spice up the even most atrocious action picture. Very special I consider to be ‘Eat Drink Man Woman’, ‘Monsoon Wedding’, ‘A Stranger Among Us’, ‘Age of Innocence’, on a lighter note ‘Love Actually’, or more recent ‘Hope Springs’. Also to name only a very few. And to be continued almost ad infinitum.

Passion and love have been likened to fire in most languages spoken around the globe – and for good reason. Fire warms us, it lets us cook meals, it emanates a light that’s warm and comforting and even led the way, when there was no electricity used. Without its energy in some regions of the world man would die. On the other hand, we all know how dramatically deadly it can become at a moment’s notice: a spark flown into the wrong direction, a fire caused in hot and dry season in the woods, blazes in buildings, streets or whole cities destroying and killing everything in their way.

Love can be the same: warm, wonderfully passionate and fulfilling, hot and quick, or slow and smooth. It can quicken the pulse to see the loved one, makes everything shine with a new light, and happiness fills mind and body, every fibre. On the other hand rejection, in a passionate love, separation, loss – can be deadly literally – or emotionally. There’s actually a condition in medicine associated with this now, the ‘broken heart syndrome’ recognized as a manifestation of bodily symptoms.

Remember: there’s no body without mind – because without words and imagination that kindle the spark, there will be dust and ashes, only.

So first and last, do with passion and love, your heart and your body, what you do with fire, too: ‘handle with care’.